Donnybrook’s hidden secret

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Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
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Andrew Matthews has been running Gold Tours in Donnybrook.
Camera IconAndrew Matthews has been running Gold Tours in Donnybrook. Credit: Nicolette Barbas

Most people associate Donnybrook with apples, pears and avocados.

But the South West town has a hidden treasure that not many people are aware of, and according to Andrew Matthews it is a tucked away, small boutique goldfield from the late 1800s.

“In 1897, a man named Richard Hunter found some gold in the creek on this site,” Mr Matthews explained.

“Eventually word got around the gold mining circles that there may be gold in Donnybrook.

“A man named Fred Camilleri, who helped develop numerous goldfields and ran gold mines, made his way down here and realised the gentleman did in fact find gold and went into business with him to develop this mine.”

Unfortunately, it was not too long before the men went broke and the mine got a bad reputation.

“Donnybrook took off agriculturally and the value of the land for agriculture was far greater than the value of the gold that was left. It’s just sub-economic for mining,” Mr Matthews said.

“About 95 per cent of the gold that is in this goldfield is still here, it’s just been picked at by a couple hundred guys 120 years ago with picks and shovels.”

But being sub-economic for industry, it’s perfect for tourism, according to Mr Matthews.

In 1997, exactly 100 years after gold was discovered on the farm, Mr Matthews said the former landowners, the Trigwells, realised their dream to develop the site’s tourism potential.

“The Trigwells had some inspiration to turn this into a tourist venture and they recreated the wood frame, built the museum and tearoom and turned this into a social venue for Donnybrook,” he said.

“The Trigwells gave a key piece of South West history new life.”

In April 2019 Mr Matthews started running small group tours exploring the historic 1898 gold workings in Donnybrook.

“Everyone that comes here is absolutely blown away by the history,” he said.

You can’t go into the story of gold in Western Australia without talking about Donnybrook.

“Some of the gold in the Perth Mint’s first gold bar contained gold from this site and I believe you cannot tell the story of the creation of that first gold bar without coming down and visiting this boutique goldfield.”

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